Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Silly Questions

I don't know a single caregiver who doesn't start to froth at the mouth when considering some of the questions, the pointless, silly, trouble-making questions, parents ask of their child. Consider this true-life example. One wet spring day, when rain is coming down in absolute sheets, this dialogue occurs in my entry way. "Tammy" is three; "Mom" is old enough to know better. Mom: Would you like to put your splash pants on? (For those of you unfamiliar with parent lingo, "splash pants" are, not surprisingly, waterproof pants one wears over one's regular clothing.) Tammy: (very calmly, because she is, after all, simply answering a question) No. Mom: (in tones of great surprise) Why not?? It's pouring out there!! And the battle commences. What possesses someone to present as a choice something which is manifestly not a choice?? Of course wee Tammy is in battle mode: Mom offered her a choice, and then told her she couldn't have it! Why shouldn't she object with all the volume and passion a three-year-old possesses? I've heard all these ridiculous questions: Would you like to put your boots on? (When it's twenty below.) Are you ready to come with daddy? (When the parent is already late collecting the child.) Can I put your seat belt on you? (When it's the law!) Argh!!! I know, I know, they're only trying to be polite. It seems never to have occurred that one can be polite and not completely abdicate their authority. How about: Okay, love, time to put those boots on! Let's go, we're late. Let's get that seat belt on you now! All said in calm, cheerful, polite tones, and with all due parental authority. No coaxing, wheedling, or negotiating required. Should the child balk, the parent need only repeat the expectation and assist in its completion. (And remember to thank your offspring for their compliance, no matter how ungraciously given it was!) Generally speaking, however, if a parent says something with calm confidence, the child will go along with it. Give a tot a choice, though, and what two-year-old worth their salt won't try to create a ruckus??

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